British Columbia is expanding its vaccine workforce, health officials said Tuesday, as the province marked 559 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference she has issued a public health order expanding the number of health professions able to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dentists, paramedics, midwives, pharmacy technicians and retired nurses are now among those who can join the vaccination work force over the next six months. B.C. plans on opening 172 vaccination sites across the province as it ramps up to immunize the general population and, Henry said, will maintain its age-based immunization plan despite some calls to prioritize essential workers.
Henry said no additional deaths were recorded in long-term care homes — a reflection of the success of vaccinations in those settings.
“I think it is a moment to reflect, as we start to receive increased supplies of immunization products, that we have delivered all of the vaccines as they’ve arrived,” she said.
Henry said the province will announce plans Monday on the vaccine rollout for people above the age of 80.
WATCH | ‘We are seeing our way out of this pandemic,’ Henry says:
B.C.’s provincial health officer says we need to continue doing our part to manage the pandemic as the province gets ready to deliver vaccines to the first age group. 1:32
Communication with seniors will be through postcards, home-care services, specialty clinics and through independent living facilities, said Henry.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said that 5,628 people received vaccination shots in the past 24 hours in B.C.
A total of 1,336 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Henry and Dix say there are 238 people currently in hospital, with 68 in intensive care.
There are 4,677 active cases of coronavirus in the province.
“We’re in a period of vaccine hope and pandemic reality,” said Henry, adding it’s “concerning” to see the percentage of positive cases and seven-day averages increasing in the Lower Mainland.
The province is also seeing coronavirus variants enter the community. B.C. is currently screening 70 per cent of positive tests for the variants.
“Since the beginning of February, when we extended orders, part of the reason to do that is because we didn’t know how many variants we were seeing,” she said.
Later Tuesday, Vancouver Coastal Health announced that an outbreak had been declared in two additional units at Vancouver General Hospital, bringing the total number of affected units to three.
The number of new cases reported daily in B.C. has also been on an upward trend in recent weeks, to the point where the number of active cases and the seven-day rolling average of new cases are at their highest in a month.
As of Tuesday, seven per cent of tests for the novel coronavirus are now coming back positive across the province, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 dashboard. In the Northern Health region, more than 13 per cent of tests are now positive.
On Monday, Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside addressed the discovery of the faster-spreading variant first reported in the U.K. in cases at seven schools in Surrey and Delta. They said at a news conference there was no evidence so far that the variants were transmitted within those schools. As of Monday, there were 101 confirmed cases of variants in B.C.
CBC British Columbia is hosting a town hall on March 10 to answer your COVID-19 vaccine questions.
You can find the details at cbc.ca/ourshot, as well as opportunities to participate in two community conversations on March 3, focused on outreach to Indigenous and multicultural communities.
Have a question about the vaccine, or the rollout plan in B.C.? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Newfoundland and Labrador reported 26 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday — which includes the nine cases announced Friday night.
The province also reported a single new recovery in the Western Health region, meaning there are 285 active cases province-wide.
In the last day, 1,618 people have been tested, for a total of 89,065 since the pandemic began.
On Friday night, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told reporters the recent mass spread in cases stems from the coronavirus variant B117, forcing the province to move backward to Alert Level 5 of its pandemic response plan with sweeping restrictions, closures and lockdowns.
During Saturday’s media availability, Fitzgerald said that while it’s known the B117 variant is estimated to be 70 per cent more transmissible than the original strain, it is still unknown whether the variant causes more or less severe illness.
“While the vast majority of cases in our province have been mild or even have had no symptoms, this could be because most of the affected individuals are young,” she said.
“Our greatest concern is how this variant could impact seniors, particularly those living in congregate living facilities.”
Watch Saturday’s full provincial COVID-19 briefing:
Because of the unknown impact of the variant, the province is bringing in added restrictions to protect seniors.
We fought an outbreak before, knowing much less about the virus than we know now.– Dr. Janice Fitzgerald
All personal-care homes, long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities in the province must suspend group activities outside of the homes. Visitation is also reduced to one essential visitor for residents who require one, Fitzgerald said. Essential visitors are those who are considered by the resident’s care team to be paramount to the resident’s well being, she added.
Residents who are admitted from the community or acute care must undergo screening, testing and isolation prior to admission to the home or facility. Anyone else who enters the building must be screened.
Staff must only be shared with other homes or facilities in urgent situations where direct care will be adversely impacted, and residents must be monitored daily for signs of COVID-19.
“We all need to keep the faith, stay strong and determined. We fought an outbreak before, knowing much less about the virus than we know now,” said Fitzgerald.
“We can do this, and we will do this. So hold fast, Newfoundland and Labrador.”
In addition, provincial government employees were also told Saturday that many of them would begin working from home.
The province’s top bureaucrat sent a message to employees, notifying them that face-to-face services would be reduced across all government departments.
“As occurred last March when the pandemic began, we are once again going to operate with the minimum number of employees to continue to provide essential services,” the message read.
The arrangement is in place for at least the next two weeks.
Changes for rotational workers
On Saturday, the province also adjusted its isolation protocols for all rotational workers returning to Newfoundland and Labrador, regardless of if they are returning from a non-outbreak site or not.
Effective immediately, Fitzgerald said, rotational workers returning to the province must self-isolate away from families for 14 days and are no longer able to avail of a COVID-19 test on the seventh day of their isolation.
Any rotational worker who has recently returned to the province and has not yet received a test on day seven will not be able to receive it, and must start self isolating away from family members immediately.
There are no changes for international rotational workers or workers returning from international sites or known outbreak sites, Fitzgerald added. Those workers must still self isolate for 14 days away from their family.
“The Canadian Red Cross is available to assist anyone who does not have a place to self-isolate or those who are in self isolation and need help accessing essentials, such as food and medication,” she said.
When asked why this decision was being made, given that the outbreak is coming from inside Newfoundland and Labrador, Fitzgerald said a lot of the province’s rotational workers work in places also experiencing problems with coronavirus variants, including B117.
“We certainly cannot take the chance of more introductions of this strain,” she said.
“We’ve had some conversations with our colleagues across the country and we understand that some people may not test positive until after day seven.”
Fitzgerald said the order is unfortunate and hopes to find another solution as time goes on, but, for now, the added restriction is what the province is going to have to do in order to slow the spread.
‘We have to always be ready’
On Saturday morning, Rodney Russell, a professor of immunology at Memorial University, told CBC News that the spike in cases should have been indication of a variant of the virus.
“What was happening this week was clearly different than anything we’ve seen here before, the spread was wildfire basically, and we still don’t know how extensive it is,” he said.
Russell said his biggest concern is that there may be other variants in the mix along with B117, specifically the variant first discovered in South Africa, which he says is harder to neutralize by antibodies and affects the effectiveness of vaccines.
“If one variant can get here, they can all get here, and then we might have viruses that can spread faster and are also harder to deal with by the vaccines,” he said.
“You really can’t underestimate this. It’s changing, it’s a moving target, it’s a changing enemy and we have to always be ready. We have to double down now, worse than ever, in keeping the virus out of our population.”
Visitor restrictions at health facilities
Restrictions on visitors at hospitals and other health facilities across the province’s regional health authorities were also put in place Saturday.
Eastern Health issued a media releasing stating it is implementing full visitor restrictions at all health care and long-term care facilities in its jurisdiction.
This means that all in-person visits to patients on hospital wards and residents in long-term care facilities are suspended until further notice.
There are exceptions, Eastern Health said, for pediatric in-patients, labour and delivery patients, palliative care and end-of-life patients and in certain exceptional circumstances, inpatients and residents may be permitted one designated support person or caregiver for the duration of their stay.
Virtual visitation is being recommended by Eastern Health while these restrictions are in place.
Eastern Health is also asking that anyone needing to use emergency rooms or attending health-care appointments to arrive on their own, unless a support person is required. One parent can accompany a child in the emergency department or for other appointments.
Patients should not arrive at appointments more than 10 minutes prior to their scheduled time to reduce the number of people in waiting rooms and allow for physical distancing, Eastern Health said.
Masks will be provided topatients and visitors entering Eastern Health facilities. The provided mask must be worn by all visitors while in the facility.
The Ontario government announced Monday that teams competing in the NHL’s all-Canadian North Division will be permitted to dine inside certain Ontario restaurants despite ongoing stay-at-home orders within the province.
When asked why it is considered safe for NHL personnel to dine indoors but not the public, Premier Doug Ford yielded to the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, who pointed to the league’s strict COVID-19 testing policy.
“The rules of the NHL are very much strict with their protocols, with their frequent testing, their isolation of their players to the extent, and especially very tight transport within Canada,” Williams said. “They do not leave the country, so they’re staying in this country the whole time. There are some players, of course, this is not their home, and [they] require some place to have some eating and food facilities.
“The NHL has procured that in a tight level of restriction and control. So that’s all part of their bubble, if you may use that term, which they have strictly laid out in their protocol. And so far, as far as I’m concerned, they’ve been adhering to it.”
Canadian-based NHL players say they have had an easier time avoiding COVID-19 due to tighter rules and restrictions compared with those in the United States. There are currently no Canadian-based players on the league’s protocol list, but that has largely been the result of limiting potential exposure and following strict routines.
WATCH | Ontario announces it will allow indoor restaurant dining for NHL players:
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams on why the provincial government is allowing NHL staff and players to eat inside restaurants while the remainder of the province remains under stay-at-home orders. 1:15
Prior to the Ontario government’s decision, travelling players and coaches in Canada were only permitted at the hotel, arena or airport during the division-only season.
The league will submit a plan for approval to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health that will specify a full list of Ontario businesses and places that will be used by the NHL.
Along with certain restaurants, the list will include selected bars and facilities for recreational fitness.
Every business or establishment listed in the NHL’s plan must comply with certain conditions, including not allowing spectators. Hotels must also ensure that their facilities are open only for the use of NHL personnel.
The province is reporting its first case of the South African variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B1351, in Peel Region.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says the person infected had no history of travel and had no contact with a person who has been out of the country.
“With the variant, it just tells you, we have to maintain strong vigilance in our measures, strong adherence to our case contact management,” he said Monday during a provincial COVID-19 briefing. But he also said the province is seeing some positive trends.
“We’re encouraged by the data right now; we’re encouraged that maybe our stay-at-home directions and our measures are holding the U.K. variants, and may be some of these other variants, at bay,” Williams said.
Williams says the province has seen a total of 69 confirmed cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K. He says the cases are spread out over a number of health units.
Average case numbers dropping
In her update Monday, the province’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe told reporters the seven day rolling average stands at 1,889 daily cases, which is a drop from previous weeks.
“Overall, there is reason for some optimism. We are seeing some impacts of this lockdown.”
Ontario is reporting 1,969 cases of COVID-19 Monday and 36 deaths after completing just 30,359 tests in the previous day.
The new cases include 961 in Toronto — which may be an overcount due to a data entry issue, the province noted — 330 in Peel and 128 in York Region.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province has now administered 341,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The province’s latest data shows 1,158 people are hospitalized with the virus, with 354 people in intensive care units. Of those patients, 260 are on ventilators.
Another 2,132 cases of COVID-19 have been marked as resolved.
A provincewide stay-at-home order remains in place.
230 LTC homes in outbreak
A total of 230 long-term care homes remain in outbreak, according to the province, with 14,616 resident cases, and 6,020 staff cases. The province says 14 more residents have died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 3,543 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Roberta Place says 63 people at the home have now died of the virus. There are a 49 active resident cases and 69 active staff cases, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit confirmed on Monday.
The unproven statement of claim filed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleges Roberta Place, a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., failed to take basic precautionary measures to protect against the novel coronavirus 10 months after the pandemic took hold in Canada.
School return dates to be announced Wednesday
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he will announce on Wednesday the dates on which schools will reopen in the province.
“We want all students in all regions back to class,” Lecce said in a tweet on Monday.
We want all students in all regions back to class.<br><br>The Chief Medical Officer of Health confirmed to Premier <a href=”https://twitter.com/fordnation?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@fordnation</a> & I that on Wednesday he will finalize his advice.<br><br>The Government will provide certainty parents deserve by announcing on Wednesday the dates for reopening.
Lecce said the chief medical officer of health for Ontario has confirmed to the minister and Premier Doug Ford that he will finalize his advice on the matter on Wednesday.
“The Government will provide certainty parents deserve by announcing on Wednesday the dates for reopening,” Lecce said.
Earlier Monday at a Queen’s Park news conference, Lecce also announced that Ontario is expanding targeted COVID-19 testing and will allow boards to tap into student teachers to fill supply roles as more schools reopen amid the second wave of the pandemic.
Provincial officials said earlier that the targeted testing will be available in all public health units where students have returned to class. They said they expect that Ontario could be doing up to 25,000 laboratory processed and 25,000 on-site, rapid antigen tests per week.
The testing will be voluntary and an option for both students and staff, officials said.
In his announcement, Lecce also said he is hopeful but not certain that remaining schools will re-open on February 10. He said local medical officers of health will have a say in whether a given region moves ahead with reopening schools.
Testing of international travellers begins today at Pearson
International travellers will have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Ontario starting today in a bid to stop contagious new variants of the virus from further infiltrating the province.
The provincial government announced the plan on Friday, the same day the federal government announced a similar program that’s to take effect in the coming weeks.
Premier Doug Ford praised the prime minister for announcing the new federal testing plan, but said Ontario would conduct its own traveller testing until Ottawa’s program begins.
The testing order comes into effect today at Toronto’s Pearson International airport, and will also eventually apply to the province’s land border crossings to the United States.
The Ontario government has announced a provincial stay-at-home order and new restrictions, as new COVID-19 modelling revealed Tuesday shows the health-care system is on the verge of being overwhelmed.
The province says it is issuing the stay-at-home order effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m., which will require everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, like going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.
“Our province is in crisis,” Premier Doug Ford said.
“The system is on the brink of collapse. It’s on the brink of being overwhelmed.”
The province says it is enacting the following measures, which will come into effect between today and Thursday:
Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions.
People are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.
All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m.
The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.
“Community transmission is widespread. It’s in our hospitals, it’s in our long-term care homes, and it’s in our workplaces,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday.
The province also announced Tuesday that schools in these public health units will not return to in-person instruction until Feb. 10:
“Schools in hotspots may not resume,” Elliott said.
WATCH | Premier Ford outlines state of emergency:
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has declared an immediate state of emergency and will impose a stay-at-home order as of Thursday at 12:01 a.m., in an effort to curb surging COVID-19 cases, which threaten to overwhelm the province’s health system. 1:12
New modelling reveals Ontario is at a ‘dangerous point’
Ford was asked Tuesday if government inaction has anything to do with the current state of the pandemic in Ontario, to which the premier responded the province is doing everything in its power to slow the spread of the virus.
“We work as a team. And any mishaps, I’m wearing it,” Ford said.
New modelling released Tuesday shows if Ontarians don’t significantly reduce their contact with others during the pandemic, the province’s health system will become overwhelmed and deaths will exceed first-wave totals before a vaccine has time to take effect.
“We’re at a dangerous point,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, at a morning briefing.
There are now cases of COVID-19 in every region of Ontario, Brown said, and the province’s hospitals are facing a potentially deadly influx of patients.
“The growth of the pandemic is particularly acute right now,” he added, noting that increases in new daily cases is above seven per cent “on our worst days,” well into worst-case scenario territory for the outlook of the illness in the province.
WATCH | Dr. Adalsteinn Brown discusses how current COVID-19 trends could impact hospital care:
Before revealing the province’s latest modelling on the pandemic, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown explained the dire health risks people will soon face. 1:05
The revised modelling suggests that despite restrictions put in place last month, mobility and contacts between people have not decreased in Ontario. Survey data shows a majority of people are trying to limit the spread of the virus by following health advice, but case numbers will not go down until more people follow that example, Brown said.
And despite repeated assertions from provincial officials and the premier alike that Ontario was building an “iron ring” around its long-term care homes to protect seniors, the figures released Tuesday also show that almost 40 per cent of the province’s long-term care homes now have active outbreaks of COVID-19.
Elliott claimed Tuesday that the province is “building that iron ring around the long-term care homes by the vaccinations that we’re doing” — but Ontario officials have promised an “iron ring” around those homes long before vaccines were ever approved by Health Canada.
The province’s forecasts now suggest there will actually be more deaths in long-term care in the pandemic’s second wave compared to the first. Since Jan. 1, 2021, 198 long-term care residents and two staffers have died.
Modellers also warned that patients with COVID-19 now occupy more than 400 ICU beds in Ontario, causing surgeries and other procedures to be delayed or cancelled, which will lead to “real consequences for health.”
Brown said that currently, about one quarter of Ontario’s hospitals have no ICU capacity left, while another quarter have only one or two beds available at any given time. The hospitals with no or very limited ICU capacity are spread out throughout the province, he added.
“This is no longer an issue of one or two regions,” Brown continued.’
Choices about who gets care on horizon
Projections now show there could be about 500 COVID-19 patients in intensive care by mid-January and potentially more than 1,000 by February under more severe scenarios.
Moreover, total admissions of patients with COVID-19 to hospitals have climbed 72.2 per cent in the last four weeks.
If current hospitalization trends continue unabated, health-care providers will be forced to make choices that “no doctor ever wants to make,” Brown said.
“There will be choices about who will get the care they need and who will not.”
Public health experts are also warning that a new, more easily transmissible variant of the virus first identified in the U.K. could begin spreading rapidly in the province, considerably extending the period of time it will take for case counts to drop significantly.
Eight more people infected with the U.K. variant of the coronavirus in Ontario were identified yesterday. A total of 14 instances of the variant have been identified, but “it’s very likely that we have more that we’re not aware of,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, at the briefing.
Three of the cases reported today currently have no known links to travel, suggesting community spread could already be happening. In a worst-case scenario in which the variant is spreading uncontrolled, models show Ontario could see up to 20,000 new cases each day by mid-February.
Yaffe said that survey results and current trends indicate the “lockdown” measures implemented late last year were “not enough.”
Asked if Ontario’s immunization campaign could meaningfully slow transmission of the novel coronavirus, Yaffe said that it will take “many months” to reach herd immunity, which requires about 60 to 70 per cent of the population to be vaccinated.
WATCH | Premier Ford on why he isn’t in favour of a curfew:
Ford told reporters Tuesday he does not believe in implementing a curfew to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. “As soon as you tell the people of Ontario you’ve lost trust… that’s it, it’s game over, you might as well throw in the white flag,” Ford said. 0:46
Both Brown and Yaffe said today that any plan to effectually slow the spread of COVID-19 in the province will require social supports for essential workers who need to take time off work, so that “nobody has to choose between getting a test and putting food on the table.”
Ford has thus far rejected calls for up to 10 paid sick days for workers in Ontario. When asked about the issue Tuesday, he deferred to federal assistance programs.
2,903 new cases reported today
All this comes as the province reported another 2,903 cases of COVID-19 and 41 more deaths of people with the illness today.
The new cases include 837 in Toronto, 545 in Peel Region, 249 in York Region, 246 in Niagara Region, 166 in Waterloo Region and 158 in Windsor-Essex.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in cases were:
Durham Region: 75
Simcoe Muskoka: 58
Halton Region: 47
Chatham Kent: 26
Eastern Ontario: 18
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 10
Thunder Bay: 10
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)
The seven-day average of new daily cases fell slightly to 3,523.
There are now 30,141 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide.
Ontario’s network of labs processed 44,802 test samples for the virus and reported a test positivity rate of 7.8 per cent.
The province says another 11,448 doses of vaccines were administered yesterday. A total of 133,553 shots have now been given out in Ontario.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital increased by 138, up to 1,701 — a new pandemic high. Of those, 385 are being treated in intensive care and 262 require the use of a ventilator to breathe.
Ontario’s COVID-19 death toll is now 5,053.
Here’s the latest provincial modelling on the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario:
The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force, retired general Rick Hillier, is scheduled to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. ET in Toronto.
Then at 3 p.m. ET, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, is set to provide a briefing on the COVID-19 situation.
You can watch both live in this story.
COVID-19 vaccinations in Ontario are expected to return to full operations on Tuesday after the province came under fire for the program being scaled down over the holidays.
The province says five vaccination clinics were open on Sunday, 10 were back in action Monday, and all of them are set to resume immunizations today.
Critics have taken issue with the pause, saying the province can’t afford to delay immunizations.
But in an interview with CBC Toronto on Monday, retired general Rick Hillier, chair of the province’s COVID-19 task force, said “we’re exactly where we planned to be.”
“I’m not in a race against other provinces; what we are in is a race to make sure the people of Ontario are getting this vaccine,” he said.
“We learn as we go and we increase our speed.”
The latest numbers released show that 13,200 of the received 90,000 shots have been administered in Ontario since the province received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine mid-month — far behind the pace of other provinces.
In the coming weeks, officials want to be able to offer about 12,000 doses a day with a view to expanding even further in the months ahead.
Asked for a justification for the closures, Hillier said it was based on advice that front-line workers needed a break.
“They’ve been working under terrible stress, terrible hours, under terrible conditions oftentimes for 10 months. And they had a little time planned with their supervisors for their time off at Christmas,” he said.
According to the province, clinical guidance recommended using half the available vaccine supplies while reserving a second dose in the event of supply chain disruptions during the initial rollouts in Toronto and Ottawa.
But in a statement issued Monday, Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott, said the province is scrapping that plan, instead counting on confirmed shipments of the vaccine set to arrive in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to keep our eye to make sure that the second dose for those individuals is on our … horizon,” Hillier said.
“We know that it’s coming and if it’s not, we’ll just slow down a little bit so we do have that second dose.”
WATCH | Chair of Ontario’s vaccine task force speaks on holiday stoppage
CBC Toronto’s Chris Glover asks the chair of Ontario’s vaccine task force, retired general Rick Hillier, to justify the holiday stoppage of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program. 8:33
The storage requirements for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine mean it will be used primarily in hospitals, while the more recently approved Moderna vaccine will go to long-term care homes, congregate settings and more rural communities.
Hillier said the Moderna shipment to Ontario is expected by the end of December, and the vaccine will be rolled out within less than a week later.
The province did not release its daily tally of new COVID-19 cases and deaths on Monday, meaning today’s numbers will cover two days.
Ontario announced on Saturday its first two confirmed cases in the province of the COVID-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom.
Ontario is the first province to identify the new COVID-19 variant.
The confirmed cases identified are from a couple from Durham Region with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said in a news release on Saturday. Durham Region is east of Toronto.
Both individuals have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols, it said.
“This further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the provincewide shutdown measures beginning today,” Yaffe said.
“Durham Region Health Department has conducted case and contact investigation and Ontario is working in collaboration with our federal counterparts at the Public Health Agency of Canada.”
The variant has now been detected in multiple countries beyond Britain, including Denmark, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.
With inbound international travel, it is not unexpected to have identified the new variant in Ontario, the news release said.
No evidence new variant more severe: PHAC
The federal government currently has a monitoring program in place with the provinces and territories to identify new COVID-19 variants in the country, such as the ones identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
“While early data suggests that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that they cause more severe disease or have any impact on antibody response or vaccine effectiveness,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said in a statement on Saturday.
“More research is required to confirm these findings, and the Canadian and global medical, public health and research communities are actively evaluating these mutations.”
As monitoring continues, PHAC says it is expected that other cases of this variant, along with other variants of concern, will be found in Canada.
“Furthermore, as these two cases did not travel outside of Canada, it is important to follow public health measures and limit contacts with others, to reduce the transmission of the virus and any of its variants in communities,” it said.
“Recognizing the potential increased risk that inbound international travellers may pose with this new variant, the province continues to call on the federal government to urgently partner with Ontario to implement testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport.”
Earlier this week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the federal government wasn’t doing enough to protect Ontario from international travellers, suggesting they’re a problematic source of COVID-19 spread in the province.
Less than 2 per cent of all COVID-19 cases reported in Canada have been a result of international travel, according to PHAC.
“Regardless of whether federal support is forthcoming, the Ontario government is prepared to act on its own to implement an airport testing program,” the provincial news release said.
“We hope this troubling news invites [the federal government] to reconsider their position,” the office for Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott wrote in an emailed statement to CBC News.
“We’ve long stood ready to work in partnership to implement enhanced testing but will do so alone if needed.”
Travellers now face additional health screening
The federal government halted all flights arriving from the United Kingdom on Dec. 20 until Jan. 6, 2021, in response to concerns about the COVID-19 variant.
All travellers are now being asked additional health screening questions to help identify whether their travel itinerary included a country of concern. They also must now present their quarantine plan to the Quarantine Officer at the point of entry to Canada, and those with an inadequate plan will be directed to a federal quarantine facility, PHAC says.
PHAC said it also monitors travellers’ compliance with quarantine and uses law enforcement officers to verify compliance during the 14-day quarantine.
Individuals who are not complying with the quarantine requirements can face fines of up to $ 750,000 or six months in jail.
“Travellers who arrived in Canada from a country of concern prior to Dec. 20 are reminded to complete their full quarantine period and to get tested even if symptoms are mild and report their travel history to local assessment centres,” PHAC said in the statement.
Ontario under provincewide lockdown
Ontario entered a provincewide lockdown at 12:01 a.m. on Boxing Day in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The province has reported more than 2,000 cases 12 days in a row, including 2,142 new positive tests on Saturday and 2,159 cases on Christmas Day.
During those days, Ontario reported 81 additional deaths.
The new measures mean restaurants in the province can only provide takeout drive-through and delivery.
Meanwhile, the provincial government is continuing to urge Ontarians to not gather for holidays and to follow public health guidelines.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, is expected to provide a briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Ontario at 3 p.m. ET.
You can watch it live in this story.
As Ontario’s hospitals called for new 28-day lockdowns for red tier regions of the province’s COVID-19 restriction framework Thursday amid record-high case counts and hospitalizations, Premier Doug Ford would not commit to any new shutdowns.
“Ontario remains firmly caught in the grasp of a major second wave of COVID-19. Daily infection is now above 2,000 new cases per day. Hospitalization is increasing rapidly, as is the occupancy of intensive care units,” the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) said in a statement.
It added that the situation has become “extremely serious.” The OHA’s board of directors held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss ongoing challenges to Ontario’s health-care system.
“We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals,” the statement continued.
Lockdown request comes amid record hospitalizations
As a result, the OHA said it must “reluctantly and with deep regret” ask the provincial government to “implement and robustly enforce” four-week lockdowns in all public health units where the weekly incidence rate is 40 per 100,000 or more, a key threshold for the red tier.
The request comes as hospitalization figures in Ontario all reached second-wave highs this week. The OHA said that its member hospitals are struggling to keep up with current needs while working to catch up on about 150,000 procedures that were postponed during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.
“Evidence is mounting that the hidden toll on human health from this disruption in scheduled services will be heavy. Our communities are tired, and so are those caring for them,” the statement said.
The provincial government should also offer paid sick leave and isolation accommodation to help those who cannot afford to take time off work if they contract the novel coronavirus, the OHA added.
Ford not considering further lockdowns, curfew
At the province’s daily news conference Thursday, Ford said he appreciates the OHA’s input, and that he talks to hospital CEOs every day. The premier did not, however, commit to any further lockdown measures.
“It’s very, very concerning, the situation we’re facing right now,” he said. “Right now, everything is on the table. We always take the advice from the medical experts.”
Ford said he was not considering any sort of curfew, which has been seen in some places in the world particularly hard hit by the virus.
However, when asked about specific decisions the government is considering to stem the tide of cases, Ford repeatedly answered “everything is on the table.”
WATCH | Premier Doug Ford on the prospect of further lockdowns:
There are many things to consider before Ontario will tighten its lockdown of the province to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Premier Doug Ford. But he said he will not make a ‘snap’ judgment about which course to take. 1:34
The premier was also asked if he was considering any financial compensation if further lockdowns are imposed. Ford said the province is working with the federal government to make sure people are taken care of.
“If that time comes, if we have to take further action … yes, there will be additional forms of assistance for small business owners,” he said.
Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the provincial government is working with the OHA and is “very aware” of its concerns. Continued community spread of the virus, particularly in hot spots, is putting strain on hospitals, she said.
“Many hospitals are at full capacity now and have had to postpone, once again, surgeries and procedures that were postponed during wave one,” Elliott said.
“We’re considering everything, the best ways to limit community spread, so I would say that nothing has been determined as yet.”
Nearly all of the rest of southern Ontario’s largest cities, with the exception of Ottawa, are in the red zone. That includes Hamilton, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Oakville, Oshawa and Barrie.
Record day for new COVID-19 cases
Meanwhile, Ontario reported another 2,432 cases of COVID-19 this morning, the most on a single day since the pandemic began.
The additional cases include 737 in Toronto, 434 in Peel Region, 209 in York Region, 190 in Windsor-Essex, 142 in Hamilton and 102 in Halton Region.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
Waterloo Region: 77
Durham Region: 73
Simcoe Muskoka: 47
Niagara Region: 45
Brant County: 26
Eastern Ontario: 19
Huron Perth: 17
Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington: 16
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)
Combined, the new cases push the seven-day average to 2,026, also a new high.
The Ministry of Education also reported 170 new cases that are school-related: 143 students, 26 staff members and one person who was not identified. Some 955 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 19.8 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19, while 22 schools are currently closed because of the illness.
There are now 17,484 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 throughout Ontario, the most-ever in the province. They come as the province’s network of labs processed 58,178 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of four per cent.
While the number of total patients in Ontario hospitals with the virus dropped slightly to 919, down 13 from 932, the number being treated in intensive care units jumped seven to 263. Of those, 172 required the use of a ventilator — 15 more than in yesterday’s report.
New long-term care spending announced
At the height of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, hospitalizations topped out at 1,043, while ICU admissions peaked at 264, according to the Ministry of Health.
Public health officials also reported 23 more deaths of people with COVID-19, bringing Ontario’s official toll to 4,058.
Ford also announced Thursday the province plans to spend up to $ 1.9 billion annually by 2024-25 to achieve an average of four hours of daily direct care in the province’s long-term care homes.
That would mean the hiring of 27,000 new personal support workers, registered nurses and other health-care staff, he said.
Ford also provided an update on vaccinations, saying that to date, 1,500 health-care workers have had their first vaccine dose in Toronto and Ottawa.
Provinces are preparing to roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine after it was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, with many hoping to start inoculating high-risk populations like health-care workers and long-term care residents by next week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday “the first 30,000 doses are expected to arrive in just a few days” and that the vaccine will be “free for Canadians” with the federal government covering the costs. But the logistics of storing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has presented provinces with challenges, and all but rule out the territories from receiving them.
Here is a look at plans across the country.
About 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive in Alberta next week, and immunizations for ICU doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care workers are expected to begin Dec. 16. Since two doses are required, that means around 1,950 people will be immunized.
Because the initial doses of the vaccine can be administered only at the sites where it is delivered — due to the need for ultra-cold storage — the province is not yet able to begin vaccinating patients at facilities. Instead, shots will be given at the two initial shipment locations in Edmonton and Calgary.
WATCH | Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine makes dry ice a hot commodity:
The first acute-care staff to get the vaccines will come from the Foothills Hospital and the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, and from University of Alberta and Royal Alexandra hospitals in Edmonton. Alberta Health Services will book appointments for those staff to receive their second dose when they receive their first.
The Government of Alberta says it anticipates it will be able to immunize up to 435,000 Albertans who are most at-risk between January and March 2021.
Starting in January, the following groups will receive the vaccine:
Long-term care and some supported living residents and staff.
Seniors age 75 and older.
On-reserve First Nations people over age 65.
Health-care workers most needed to ensure workforce capacity.
The first vaccines will go to health-care workers at long-term care homes and other high-risk places, Premier Doug Ford said in a news release.
More details are set to be provided on Friday, Ford’s statement said.
Manitoba is slated to receive doses next week, and expects to receive enough to vaccinate more than 100,000 people by March 31 of next year.
The first 1,950 doses are reserved for health-care workers in the critical care field, the vast majority of whom work in Winnipeg. Over the next three months, more locations will be established in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Steinbach, Gimli, Portage la Prairie and The Pas.
Details on how the first 900 health workers can book appointments to get the vaccine will be released in the coming days.
Beyond that, the province is still working out details on how it will notify people that they are eligible for the vaccine.
WATCH | Health-care workers to receive first Manitoba COVID-19 vaccines:
Health-care workers in critical-care units will be the first in Manitoba to get the COVID-19 vaccine once initial doses — enough for about 900 people — arrive in the province next week, Premier Brian Pallister says. 1:54
Vaccine doses will start arriving in Saskatchewan next week and will be given to health-care workers at Regina General Hospital who provide direct care to COVID-19 patients.
Phase 1 of the province’s vaccine delivery plan — with 202,052 doses expected within the first quarter of 2021 — will focus on health-care workers, elderly residents in care homes, seniors over 80 and residents in northern remote communities.
Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout, which will see the general population begin to be vaccinated, is scheduled to begin in April 2021.
B.C. plans on immunizing 400,000 people against COVID-19 by March 2021, with priority given to residents and staff of long-term care homes and health-care workers.
As more doses of the vaccine become available, priority will be given to seniors over 80, people with underlying health conditions, people who are underhoused, and people living in remote and isolated Indigenous communities.
By April, front-line workers including teachers, grocery store workers, firefighters and people working in food processing plants will be prioritized.
As doses increase, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says vaccines will be distributed, moving down the population age range in increments.
WATCH | Approved COVID-19 vaccine brings hope to anxious Canadians:
The approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be life-changing for many vulnerable Canadians who have been anxiously awaiting the rollout. 2:02
A limited number of vaccine doses will likely be available in Quebec starting next week.
Patients in residential and long-term care centres, which accounted for the vast majority of deaths related to COVID-19, will be the first to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the province as early as next Monday. Patients will receive the vaccinations on site.
People living in private seniors’ residences and those in isolated communities, including Indigenous communities and particularly those located in Nunavik and James Bay, will be next.
The next groups to receive the vaccine will be organized by age, starting with those 80 and up, then 70 to 79, and 60 to 69, followed by those who are 60 and under and have other risk factors.
The first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine will arrive in New Brunswick around Dec. 14, with a second shipment before the end of the year.
The first shipment will be delivered to the Miramichi Regional Hospital, said Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, who is leading the rollout of the vaccine. It was chosen based on its central location, said MacCallum. The hospital — which has installed an ultra-low-temperature freezer — can be reached within two or three hours from virtually anywhere in the province, he said.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers, emergency responders and seniors will be prioritized.
WATCH | New Brunswick outlines vaccination plan:
Greg MacCallum announced vaccine rollout plan and said the first shipment will be sent to Miramichi 4:48
Newfoundland and Labrador
Health Minister John Haggie said a thermal shipper — used to keep vaccine doses at a consistent temperature during transport — arrived in N.L. on Wednesday, with vaccine deliveries expected next week.
Haggie said the province’s vaccine committee also met on Wednesday morning with distribution plans “significantly advanced.” He said by the time the vaccine arrives the province will be in a position to “highlight” high-risk groups who will receive the first doses.
Prince Edward Island
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine could arrive on P.E.I. as early as next week, allowing the province to vaccinate 1,000 people, starting with the most vulnerable: residents and staff in long-term care.
Nova Scotia is expecting one batch of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month, with regular weekly allotments starting in January.
The first people in the province to receive the vaccine will be front-line health-care workers, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announced Tuesday.
Premier Stephen McNeil said Nova Scotia chose to target frontline health-care workers first because they are the ones most likely to transmit the virus to long-term care residents and the elderly.
Right now the only freezer in the province with temperatures cold enough to store the vaccines is in Halifax. As such, the first doses will have to be administered in the central zone.
McNeil said anyone tapped for priority access who is outside the Halifax area will be brought in to receive their dose.
That first batch of nearly 250,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine will be available in Canada before the end of the year, but none will go to the territories. The North lacks the freezers needed to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the company says requires a freezer at -80 C to -60 C or a thermal container at -90 C to -60 C.
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said the territory is more likely to get the Moderna vaccine because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s strict storage and shipping requirements aren’t appropriate for remote communities. He said Nunavut’s vaccines would be mostly, if not entirely, from Moderna.
Similarly, Yukon officials announced that the Moderna vaccine will begin arriving in the territory in January. Premier Sandy Silver said Thursday that all adults who want the vaccine will receive it for free, within the first three months of 2021.
Health Minister Pauline Frost said Yukon will get 50,400 doses by the end of March. This is enough to cover 25,000 people according to a government statement. Frost said priority will be given to residents and staff of long-term care homes, health-care and personal support workers, adults over 80, and Yukon residents in rural or remote communities.
The Northwest Territories government expects the Moderna vaccine to be available to 75 per cent of the territory’s “eligible population” in “early 2021,” according to a statement issued Thursday.
Public health measures are ramping up in five regions across Ontario on Monday, with one more region moving to the “red alert” level on the province’s tiered pandemic response plan.
Windsor-Essex is entering the red level, Haldimand-Norfolk is entering the orange level and Hastings Prince Edward, Lambton and Northwestern are entering the yellow zone.
The province said the regions will stay in their new categories for at least 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods, before a change is considered.
Ontario’s network of labs processed 39,406 more test samples of the novel coronavirus, and recorded a test positivity rate of 4.6%. 618 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario, 168 in ICU, 108 are on a ventilator. <a href=”https://t.co/22XcdlRiS2″>https://t.co/22XcdlRiS2</a>
Ontario on Monday reported 1,746 cases of COVID-19, with 622 new cases in Toronto and 390 in Peel Region, which are both under lockdown measures. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that more than 39,400 tests had been completed.
The province reported eight additional deaths, bringing Ontario’s death toll to 3,656. Hospitalizations hit 618, with 168 in intensive care, according to provincial data.
Meanwhile, a window company in York Region, which is currently in the red alert zone, has declared a COVID-19 outbreak after 62 cases were confirmed there.
Health officials say this is the second outbreak at State Windows Corporation’s facility, following an initial outbreak in May that ended up infecting 17 people.
With many children continuing to attend school virtually during the pandemic, Premier Doug Ford on Monday announced a one-time support payment — of either $ 200 or $ 250 per child — to offset education-related expenses for families. The funds can be used for expenses including technology, school supplies and developmental resources.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 3:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 374,051, with 64,773 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,076.
In Saskatchewan,more than 100 medical students have signed an open letter to the provincial government calling for more action to control the spread of COVID-19.
In the letter, the University of Saskatchewan students thank the government for some of the measures already taken, such as mandatory indoor masking, but say they’re not enough.
Saskatchewan reported 325 new cases and two COVID-19 deaths on Monday. Along with 49 recoveries, there are now 3,879 active cases across the province.
Officials also reported 123 hospitalizations, which is a new record for the province.
Manitoba reported 343 new cases on Monday, along with 11 new COVID-19 deaths, including a man in his 30s and a woman in her 40s. Seven of the deaths are connected to outbreaks at long-term care homes
The province also hit a new record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations with 342 people in hospital, 43 of whom are in intensive care.
Two Manitoba churches held drive-in services over the weekend, in violation of public health orders capping gatherings at five people and ordering religious services to move online.
WATCH | Steinbach, Man., pastor says RCMP is ‘blocking God’ by stopping drive-in church service:
Members of a church in Steinbach, Man., a COVID-19 hotspot, clashed with the RCMP when they tried to enforce public health measures prohibiting all gatherings, including religious services. The pastor said officers were ‘blocking God.’ 2:35
Quebec reported 1,333 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths on Monday, bringing the number of deaths in the province to 7,056. Hospitalizations stood at 693 in Quebec, with 94 in intensive care, according to a provincial tally.
The update comes a day after a Montreal long-term care home transferred 20 residents to local hospitals after COVID-19 took hold at the home in the last week, concerning officials and terrifying families.
Quebec long-term care homes were hit hard during the first wave of the pandemic last spring. Many facilities were under-staffed and in some cases, personnel moved between centres — allowing the virus to spread more easily.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 338.Prince Edward Island, which has just four active cases total, had no new cases to report on Monday.
Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases on Monday. The province started using pop-up clinics to test for COVID-19 last week.
WATCH | N.L. premier explains ‘difficult decision’ to leave Atlantic bubble:
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says he is ‘following the evidence’ with the decision to pull out of the Atlantic bubble for now. 8:30
While the overall numbers are far lower than what health officials are seeing in Central and Western Canada, the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in several Atlantic provinces sparked enough concern that both Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. decided to temporarily withdraw from the bubble that allowed free movement between the provinces.
Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey told CBC’s Rosemary Barton that his province’s decision to temporarily leave the Atlantic travel bubble was a “tough decision — but it was one that we based on evidence.”
Not long after the changes announced by Newfoundland and P.E.I., New Brunswick added some border restrictions of its own, saying that people travelling into the province — including people who live in other Atlantic provinces — would be required to self-isolate for 14 days unless exempt.
“Registration for travel into New Brunswick, including New Brunswickers returning home from travel, is also now mandatory,” the province said in a statement last week.
Alberta reported 1,608 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the second-highest daily total in the province since the pandemic began. The province, which has reported a total 533 deaths, said Sunday that there were 435 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Ninety-five of those people were being treated in intensive care units.
In British Columbia, which doesn’t provide COVID-19 data on weekends, a church in Langley was hit with a $ 2,300 fine for holding an in-person religious service, which is currently prohibited.
There was no new case reported in the Northwest Territories on Sunday.
Have questions about COVID-19 in Canada? Join Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang of The National for a virtual town hall.
What’s happening around the world
WATCH | Consider COVID-19 risks of holiday celebrations, urges WHO chief:
‘We all need to consider whose life we might be gambling with’ during holiday celebrations because of the coronavirus, says World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 2:19
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 1:30 p.m. ET
As of Monday afternoon, more than 62.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 40.3 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths.
Moderna is just behind Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in seeking to begin vaccinations in the U.S. in December. Across the Atlantic, British regulators also are assessing the Pfizer shot and another from AstraZeneca.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam confirmed on Monday its first locally transmitted case of the coronavirus in nearly three months, after the infection of a man related to a flight attendant who had tested positive after returning from Japan two weeks ago.
The country’s health minister ordered provinces and state agencies to tighten screening and controls and contact tracing efforts were launched after the 32-year-old man was confirmed as the first reported domestic infection in 89 days.
With its strict quarantine and tracking measures, Vietnam has managed to quickly contain its coronavirus outbreaks, allowing it to resume its economic activities earlier than much of Asia.
Vietnam crushed its first wave of coronavirus infections in April and went nearly 100 days without local transmission until the virus re-emerged and was quickly contained in the central city of Danang in July.
Indonesia reported a record daily rise in coronavirus infections on Sunday with 6,267 cases, bringing the total to 534,266, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.
Cambodia’s Education Ministry has ordered all state schools to close until the start of the next school year in January after a rare local outbreak of the coronavirus.
Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron issued a statement late Sunday saying that all schools will be shut to prevent students from being infected. Public schools will remain closed until Jan. 11, the start of the next school year, while private schools must close for two weeks, he said. Students in private schools will be permitted to study online.
Cambodia has reported only 323 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, most of them acquired abroad, with no confirmed deaths.
In the Americas, U.S. health authorities will hold an emergency meeting this week to recommend that a coronavirus vaccine awaiting approval be given first to health-care professionals and people in long-term care facilities.
Counties across California, meanwhile, are imposing stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Monday as cases surge statewide and Thanksgiving travellers return home.
Health officials are preparing for a wave of cases in the next two or three weeks that could be tied to holiday gatherings.
Los Angeles County, for example, will impose a lockdown calling for its 10 million residents to stay home beginning Monday.
WATCH | How testing helped Cornell University become a model of COVID-19 prevention:
At the start of the school year, Cornell University implemented a strategy of regular testing and robust contact tracing on campus. The plan was expensive, but it’s prevented any major COVID-19 outbreaks at the New York institution. 8:19
The state reported 7,415 coronavirus hospitalizations on Sunday, citing the most recently available data from the previous day. More than 1,700 of those patients were in intensive care units. California’s previous record was 7,170 in July.
As of Sunday, California has had nearly 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 19,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The state reported around 15,600 new cases on Saturday.
Mexico reported 6,388 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 196 additional deaths on Sunday, health ministry data showed.
In Africa, mass vaccination against COVID-19 is unlikely to start in Africa until midway through next year and keeping vaccines cold could be a big challenge, the continent’s disease control group said.
Kenya’s central bank has cut its forecast for 2020 economic growth by more than half, joining the Treasury in realizing that the coronavirus had inflicted more damage to the economy than previously thought.
In Europe, Belgium will let shops reopen from Tuesday, but keep other curbs over the festive period, while Italy will ease anti-COVID-19 restrictions in five regions from Sunday. Ireland will allow shops, restaurants, gyms and pubs serving food to reopen next week and permit travel between counties from Dec. 18.
Italy reported 541 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, against 686 the day before, and 20,648 new infections, down from 26,323 on Saturday, the health ministry said.
While Italy’s daily death tolls have been among the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy is slowing, suggesting the latest wave of infections is receding.
Meanwhile, Greek officials say the number of new infections is waning in most parts of the country, which has been in lockdown for three weeks. The lockdown initially had been set to end Monday but has been extended for another week.
Greece on Monday recorded 1,044 new confirmed infections — down from a record high of more than 3,000 earlier in November — and 85 new deaths.
The hardest-hit country in the Middle East, Iran, had more than 948,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 47,000 recorded deaths.